Monday, July 31, 2023

Lily and Lydia -- A New Website and Magazine

A couple of months ago, some lovely Christian women started a new email mini-magazine called Lily & Lydia.  This month, they launched the website to go with it.  Their focus is on uplifting and encouraging Christian women in all stages and areas of life, and I really love what they're doing.  In fact, I have contributed a few things to both the magazine and website!  

My first contribution to the website is in the form of advice and thoughts about homeschooling, as part of an article on prepping for the homeschool year.  You can read that right here.

The website also currently has articles up on traveling to Scotland and Ireland, supporting a grieving friend, shopping at Costco for a small family, home decorating, and foraging.  So you can see that this isn't a magazine aimed at women in one specific walk of life, but one that has something to offer to just about everybody.  If you'd like to sign up for the mini-magazine, here's a handy link, or you can sign up via the website too.

They're looking for contributors, so if you are interested in adding some of your own writing or ideas to the mix, here's a page listing what they are looking for!

Saturday, July 29, 2023

LOWCW Giveaway Winners and Wrap-Up

Sigh.  Legends of Western Cinema Week has come to an end.

Time to announce the prizes for my giveaway, eh?

Prize 1: A set of 4 classic western movies -- The Metzinger Sisters

Prize 2: The Hollywood West: Lives of Film Legends Who Shaped It -- Kylie Hunt

Prize 3: The complete TV series The Loner (1965-66) -- Eva

Prize 4: A set of THREE bookmarks featuring silhouettes of cowboy actors John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Val Kilmer -- Heidi

Prize 5: A set of FOUR bookmarks featuring silhouettes from the movie Tombstone (1993) -- Andrea

Prize 6: A rustic metal cowboy boot-shaped magnet -- Chloe the Movie Critic

Congratulations, winners!  I'll be contacting you via email to get your mailing addresses so I can send off your prizes.

If you haven't had a chance to read everyone's posts yet, or if you have one last post you want to add to the widget, here it is again, so you don't have to scroll alllllll the way down to the kick-off post to find it.

Thanks to everyone who joined the fun this year, whether by contributing posts or just commenting on them.  I've had fun, and I hope you have too :-)

Answers to the Western Title Actor Trivia Game

Here are the answers to this year's trivia game!  Scores are down below.

Wrangler Round -- Movies with one character in the title

1. Along Came Jones (1945) -- Gary Cooper
2. Annie Get Your Gun (1950) -- Betty Hutton
3. The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017) -- Bill Pullman
4. Big Jake (1971) -- John Wayne
5. Calamity Jane (1953) -- Doris Day
6. Cat Ballou (1965) -- Jane Fonda
7. Chisum (1970) -- John Wayne
8. Destry Rides Again (1939) -- James Stewart
9. Django Unchained (2017) -- Jamie Foxx
10. The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) -- Glenn Ford
11. Hondo (1953) -- John Wayne
12. Hud (1963) -- Paul Newman
13. Jane Got a Gun (2015) -- Natalie Portman
14. Jeremiah Johnson (1972) -- Robert Redford
15. Jubal (1956) -- Glenn Ford
16. The Left Handed Gun (1958) -- Paul Newman
17. The Lone Ranger (2013) -- Armie Hammer
18. The Man from Laramie (1955) -- James Stewart
19. The Mark of Zorro (1940) -- Tyrone Power
20. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) -- Clint Eastwood
21. The Paleface (1948) -- Bob Hope
22. Pale Rider (1985) -- Clint Eastwood
23. Quigley Down Under (1990) -- Tom Selleck
24. The Redhead from Wyoming (1953) -- Maureen O'Hara
25. Shane (1953) -- Alan Ladd
26. The Shootist (1976) -- John Wayne
27. Two Mules for Sister Sarah (1970) -- Shirley MacLaine 
28. The Virginian (2000) -- Bill Pullman
29. Whispering Smith (1948) -- Alan Ladd
30. Will Penny (1967) -- Charlton Heston
31. Wyatt Earp (1994) -- Kevin Costner

Top Hand Round -- Movies with two characters in the title

32. Angel and the Badman (1947) -- John Wayne, Gail Russell
33. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) -- Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck
34. Buck and the Preacher (1972) -- Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte
35. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) -- Paul Newman, Robert Redford
36. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) -- John Wayne, Lee Marvin
37. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) -- James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson
38. The Searchers (1956) -- John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter

Trail Boss Round -- Movies with many characters in the title

39. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) -- Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach
40. The Magnificent Seven (1960) -- Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Horst Bucholz, Brad Dexter
41. The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) -- John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman, Michael Anderson Jr. 
42. Three Amigos! (1986) -- Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short
43. 3 Godfathers (1948) -- John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr., Pedro Armendariz

Elisabeth Grace Foley -- 47
Chloe the Movie Critic -- 27
Debra She Who Seeks -- 24
Olivia -- 23
Harold Loves Maude 2020 -- 15

Friday, July 28, 2023

My Answers to the LOWCW 2023 Tag

It has taken me days to fill this out.  So many good moments to choose from!  I'm so glad we decided to say "a favorite" for these so I didn't have to feel pressure to figure out my one absolute top favorite for any of these, as I would probably never have finished it otherwise.

In other words, get yourself a fresh cup of coffee and a biscuit from the chuckwagon and settle back for a series of pretty thorough answers to these tag questions.

The LOWCW 2023 Tag

Stetson -- a favorite hero moment (i.e. highlighting their character and/or making a pivotal decision, etc) 

There's a moment in The Lone Ranger (2013) at the beginning of the finale when John Reid (Armie Hammer) appears above the crowd on his white horse, which rears up, and the first time I saw that, it was like he slotted into this silhouette in my head that's the shape of A Heroic Man.  It's really hard to describe, but it was like this moment of recognition for me and victory for him, and... I love that moment, because it's when John Reid finally OWNS being The Lone Ranger, and he never looks back from then on.

Petticoat -- a favorite heroine moment (ditto)

There's a tiny moment in The Rare Breed (1966) where Hilary Price (Juliet Mills), her mother Martha (Maureen O'Hara), and cowpuncher Sam Burnett (James Stewart) are transporting the prize Hereford bull Vindicator to Texas.  Vindicator is tied behind the wagon that Martha and Hilary usually ride in on the trip, but on this sunny afternoon, Hilary isn't in the wagon, she is riding on Vindicator's back.  She raised him from a calf and loves him dearly, and she's really struggling to accept that he's been sold and is on his way to his new home, where she will have to leave him.  Most of that struggle is not conveyed to us in words, but in how Hilary behaves toward him, and that's most poignant in the moment when she's riding on his back and lies down on his back and closes her eyes.  The love and trust conveyed in that simple moment get to me every time I watch the movie.

Canteen -- a favorite scene with a leader/mentor 

In my favorite movie, The Man from Snowy River (1982), young Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) has been accused of stealing a valuable horse from his employer, Mr. Harrison (Kirk Douglas).  Jim loses his job and heads home to the mountains.  There, he encounters a friend of his dad's, the crack rider Clancy (Jack Thompson).  Clancy tells Jim that Mr. Harrison is getting together a lot of riders to recover that valuable horse from the herd of wild horses it has joined.  Jim wants nothing to do with it because he's angry over being falsely accused of theft and fired, but Clancy tells him he should join the search because he's a grown man now, not a sulky kid, basically.  Jim is unconvinced.  Finally, Clancy asks him, "What's the first thing you do when a horse bucks you off?"  Jim says, "You don't let him beat you, you get straight back on."  Clancy nods and says, "Well?"  Jim might not like it, but he knows what he has to do.

That bit of advice, to stand up and try again and not let one fall defeat you is something that has been a real help to me all my life.  My own dad has actually quoted it to me, most memorably the first time I put on a pair of roller skates after breaking my arm while roller skating when I was 12.

Gloves -- a favorite sidekick/friend scene 

This is a scene that hurts and hurts, but it's so agonizingly good that I love it anyway.  In Hour of the Gun (1967), Wyatt Earp (James Garner) has just gunned down a man involved in the murder of Wyatt's brother.  Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) has been sitting silently on his horse watching things go down, but once Wyatt's business is finished, Doc can't be quiet anymore.  He tells Wyatt he's not carrying warrants for arrest, he's carrying hunting licenses.  Doc says Wyatt has no intention of bringing any of these people in alive, he's not working for the law anymore, he's turned vigilante and is carrying out his own little vengeful killing spree.

Wyatt is enraged.  It's the truth, but he can't bear to admit it to himself.  He absolutely refuses to admit anything that Doc is saying is true, and ends up belting his friend across the face.

Doc drops to his knees, the blow having started a horrible coughing fit, as he's slowly dying of tuberculosis.  He coughs and coughs and coughs, and Wyatt instantly switches from rage to compassion and remorse.  It's a gorgeous scene where Doc has the guts to tell his friend the truth, and Wyatt refuses to listen, but then his friendship for Doc overrules his anger.

Canyon -- a favorite western landscape 

I can't decide between Monument Valley and the Grand Tetons.  They both pop up in plenty of westerns, and they are both always completely, achingly gorgeous.

Monument Canyon in The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Tetons in Shane (1953)

Pistol -- a favorite fight scene 

The showdown at the end of A Fistful of Dollars (1964) is everything I want a gunfight to be.  The stakes are as high as possible, with the freedom and peace of a whole town riding on the outcome.  The bad guys are evil, and multitudinous, stacked against one lone hero who won't stay knocked down.  Add in a glorious trumpet theme by Ennio Morricone and you can't lose!

Saddle -- a favorite horse / animal in a western 

He may not be my absolute favorite, but Denny, the horse that Jim Craig rides to glory in The Man from Snowy River, is amazing.  I definitely owe my love of buckskin horses to Denny, and I owe my love of all horses to that film.

Sky -- a favorite ambitious / crazy plan in a western 

The War Wagon (1967) is all about a plan to rob an un-rob-able armored stagecoach filled with gold.  It's a heist film disguised as a western, and it might be part of why I love heist films, now that I think about it.  Taw Jackson (John Wayne) was wrongly convicted of a crime and just got out of prison after serving time for it (oh, and that is another favorite trope of mine!).  He decides to get his revenge on the man who framed him (Bruce Cabot) by gathering a group of oddly talented ne'er-do-wells (Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn, and Robert Walker Jr. -- and no, I am not making that cast up) to help him carry out a very elaborate and detailed plan to rob his nemesis's armored gold-shipment coach.  That's the whole plot of the movie.  And it's a fun, fun ride.

Rifle -- a favorite scene with an antagonist 

Basically any scene from The Magnificent Seven (1960) with the bandit leader Calvera (Eli Wallach) in it, to be honest.  He steals every scene, even out from under the likes of Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner.  If I had to pick one favorite, it would be one from close to the beginning where he is justifying his thieving to some townsfolk, because he is totally convinced he makes absolute sense.  He's not stealing from these villagers because he hates them or he's filled with malice or he wants to take over the world, he's stealing from them to feed the men who follow him, and he's not mean and nasty about it, and that makes him one of the few villains I actually like a little bit.

Chuckwagon -- a favorite meal scene 

In Shane (1953), after Shane (Alan Ladd) uses nothing but his quietly menacing presence to scare their enemies away from their homestead, Joe (Van Heflin) and Marian (Jean Arthur) invite him to eat a meal with them.  While they eat, you get the sense that it has been a long time since Shane shared a meal with a family instead of eating at a boarding house or in some beanery.  He thanks Marian and tells her that this was "an elegant meal, ma'am."  His soft and graceful chivalry in that one line communicates to the audience -- and to Joe and Marian -- that there is a lot of depth to this gunfighter.  That he is more than just another tough guy. 

Badge -- a favorite scene with peace officers / sheriff 

There's a moment in Rio Bravo (1959) that has nothing to do, exactly, with keeping the peace or upholding the law, but it's such a sweet and lovely scene that I have to share it here.  The sheriff (John Wayne), his deputy (Dean Martin), the man who sweeps out the jail (Walter Brennan), and a young gunman (Ricky Nelson) are all holed up in the town jail, guarding one prisoner until the judge can come and try his case.  That prisoner's rich and powerful brother is doing everything he can to get the lawmen to release him, but they are standing firm and refusing.  In the middle of a very tense movie that is going to ratchet up the tension even more before it's through, we get a soft and quiet interlude where Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson sing a couple of songs one evening because you cannot have Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson in a movie together without getting them to sing something.  And because the audience needs a little breather between tense and exciting plot points just as much as the characters do.

Lariat -- a favorite cattle drive /roundup

The climax of Chisum (1970) involves a herd of cattle being driven straight through the main street of a town, with cattle going inside the buildings and smashing stuff up and altogether causing a great deal of mayhem.  It's chaotically glorious in a strange way, and I look forward to it every time I watch the movie.  Not quite a cattle drive or roundup in the usual sense, but very memorable!  I may have drawn inspiration from it for the ending of The Man on the Buckskin Horse, actually.

Hey, look at that!  You made it to the end of this very long post!  Hope your coffee held out.

Don't forget that today is the last day to enter my giveaway!  

Thursday, July 27, 2023

My Ten Favorite Funny Westerns

Something about the western genre often lends itself to blending with comedy, which I find delightful.  Here are my ten favorite funny westerns -- some are spoofs or meant to be comedies, and others are more just westerns that have a lot of funny stuff in them.

1. Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) A mild-mannered man (James Garner) who is basically just on his way to Australia takes on the job of sheriff in a goldrush boomtown.  His unorthodox methods and unflappable demeanor keep everyone bewildered and off balance, from baddies (including Walter Brennan and Bruce Dern), to the mayor (Henry Morgan), to his former-town-drunk deputy (Jack Elam).  One of the absolute funniest movies I have ever seen.  My family quotes it constantly.

2. The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)  A card sharp (Bill Bixby) takes care of three orphans, marries a stage coach driver (Susan Clark), and captures a famous outlaw (Slim Pickens) while eluding the machinations of two inept would-be robbers (Don Knotts and Tim Conway).  One of my favorites when I was a kid, and still funny and awesome now.

3. North to Alaska (1960) A wealthy Alaska mine owner (John Wayne) brings a dance hall girl (Capucine) back to his claim to replace the woman who jilted his mining partner (Stewart Granger), only to fall in love with her himself.  A western romcom, basically, and one with an amazingly fun brawl in the mud at the end.  Thanks to this movie, I have basically been on my way to Alaska for the last thirty years.

4. Texas Across the River (1966).  A Southern belle (Rosemary Forsyth) pursues her European fiance (Alain Delon) to Texas, where she gets mixed up with an opportunistic gunrunner (Dean Martin).  A few of the jokes have not aged well, but most of them are still laugh-out-loud funny.

5. Along Came Jones (1945) A slow-talking, easy-going cowpoke (Gary Cooper) gets mistaken for a vicious outlaw (Dan Duryea) and falls for the outlaw's girl (Loretta Young). This is a charming western comedy that amuses me greatly.

6. The Sheepman (1958) A sheep rancher (Glenn Ford) insists on raising his sheep in an area dominated by cattle ranchers, no matter how much they pressure or cajole him to be rid of the wooly beasts. The main character's sense of humor and a stubborn and sassy woman (Shirley MacLaine) elevates this above turning into yet another range war picture.

7. McLintock! (1963) A rich rancher (John Wayne) battles his estranged wife (Maureen O'Hara), daughter, land-grabbing bad guys, and various other adversaries. It's actually a western version of The Taming of the Shrew.

8. Cat Ballou (1965) Cat Ballou (Jane Fonda) comes home to her family's ranch just in time to witness her father's murder by the notorious (and noseless) Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin). She straps on a gunbelt and sets out to avenge him, eventually gathering up an outlaw gang of comically inept ne'erdowells, including washed-up gunfighter Kid Shelleen (also Lee Marvin). This is a wacky, wild movie, but I like it.

9. Three Amigos! (1986) Three silent movie stars (Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short) are mistaken for actual gunfighters by the people in a small Mexican village being terrorized by a bandit (Alfonso Arau).  It's basically a really silly version of The Magnificent Seven.

10. Rango (2011) A chameleon (Johnny Depp) accidentally winds up in a middle-of-nowhere town that's in desperate need of some law and order.  It's an animated spoof/homage to all the classic westerns, with tropes and archetypes at every turn, and such a loving homage that I can't help but find it both funny and charming.

Yup, this is another contribution to this year's Legends of Western Cinema Week.  Hope you've been enjoying the festivities!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Western Title Actor Trivia Game

For my second game this week, I have rounded up a whole lot of western movies with a person's name or descriptor in the title.  Your job?  Tell me who played the title character(s)!

To make this easier, I have a bank of actor and actress names for you to choose from.  Although, some of these get used more than once, so maybe that won't make it much easier?  Still, I know some people have a hard time remembering actor names, so I thought that would help.  There are three rounds -- Wrangler, Top Hand, and Trail Boss.  

Each name you get correct counts as a point!  Max score of 65 points possible.

(If this list of names is too small for you to read easily, right click on it and open it in another window, which will make the words bigger.)

(Please note that the presence of a film on these lists does not necessarily mean I recommend it.  I haven't even seen some of them.)

Wrangler Round -- Movies with one character in the title

1. Along Came Jones (1945) 
2. Annie Get Your Gun (1950) 
3. The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017) 
4. Big Jake (1971) 
5. Calamity Jane (1953) 
6. Cat Ballou (1965) 
7. Chisum (1970) 
8. Destry Rides Again (1939) 
9. Django Unchained (2017) 
10. The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) 
11. Hondo (1953) 
12. Hud (1963) 
13. Jane Got a Gun (2015) 
14. Jeremiah Johnson (1972) 
15. Jubal (1956)
16. The Left Handed Gun (1958) 
17. The Lone Ranger (2013)
18. The Man from Laramie (1955) 
19. The Mark of Zorro (1940) 
20. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
21. The Paleface (1948) 
22. Pale Rider (1985) 
23. Quigley Down Under (1990) 
24. The Redhead from Wyoming (1953) 
25. Shane (1953) 
26. The Shootist (1976) 
27. Two Mules for Sister Sarah (1970) 
28. The Virginian (2000) 
29. Whispering Smith (1948) 
30. Will Penny (1967) 
31. Wyatt Earp (1994) 

Top Hand Round -- Movies with two characters in the title

32. Angel and the Badman (1947) 
33. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) 
34. Buck and the Preacher (1972) 
35. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) 
36. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) 
37. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) 
38. The Searchers (1956)

Trail Boss Round -- Movies with many characters in the title

39. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
40. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
41. The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
42. Three Amigos! (1986) 
43. 3 Godfathers (1948)

I am putting all comments on "moderation" mode now.  Your comments will NOT show up right away -- that keeps people from being tempted to cheat by peeking at other people's guesses.  I will post the answers and scores at the end of the week!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Build Your Own Western Movie Cast

Ready to play a western movie-making game?  Rev up your imagination and picture this:

You are now possessed of a massive budget, a rollicking script for a western, a great director... and a time machine to help you assemble your cast from the finest western stars of the past one hundred years. 

The only catch is, your cast is going to be determined by some fairly random aspects of your life.  This should result (I hope) in a truly unique cast, the likes of which has never before graced the silver screen.  Just follow the directions to gather your stars, then let us know your spectacular cast lineup in the comments!

Ready?  Let's do it!

Lead Actor

The second letter of your middle name determines who gets to play the main male character in your movie, as follows:

A/B/C = Clint Eastwood
D/E/F = Denzel Washington
G/H/I = Glenn Ford
J/K/L = John Wayne
M/N/O = Matt Damon
P/Q/R = Sidney Poitier
S/T/U = Steve McQueen
V/W/X/Y/Z = Val Kilmer

Lead Actress

The main female character in your movie is determined by what you're wearing on your feet right now:

Socks only = Doris Day
Slippers = Zendaya
Sneakers/tennis shoes = Nicole Kidman
Sandals = Penelope Cruz
High heels = Olivia de Havilland
Boots = Maureen O'Hara
Bare feet = Scarlett Johansson
Other = Barbara Stanwyck

Hero's Sidekick

Your hero needs a sidekick, right?  The first letter of the street you live on decides who helps your hero out of any messes or jams he might find himself in:

A/B/C = Charles Bronson
D/E/F = Sam Elliott
G/H/I = Danny Glover
J/K/L = Diego Luna
M/N/O = Lee Majors
P/Q/R = Bill Pullman
S/T/U = Jay Silverheels
V/W/X/Y/Z = Patrick Wilson

Heroine's Best Friend

Even the strongest female character needs friends.  Find out who plays your heroine's gal pal based on the last thing you had to drink (or what you're currently drinking):

Water = Gina Carano
Milk = Debbie Reynolds
Coffee = Shelley Winters
Tea = Selma Hayek
Soda = Angie Dickinson
Juice = Hailee Steinfeld
Alcohol = Claire Trevor
Other = Mary-Louise Parker

Comic Relief

Every movie needs a laugh here and there.  The genre of the last movie you watched determines who will bring the chuckles to your film:

Action = Jackie Chan
Comedy = Steve Martin
Drama = Walter Brennan
Family film = Don Knotts
Musical = Bill Murray
Rom-com = Owen Wilson
Sci-fi = Slim Pickens
Western = George "Gabby" Hayes


Who's making trouble for your hero and heroine?  The first pet you ever had decides your villain:

Cat = Tommy Lee Jones
Dog = Lee Marvin
Fish = Cate Blanchett
Bird = Marlene Dietrich
Reptile = Lee Van Cleef
Rodent = Gene Hackman
Horse = Alan Rickman
Other = Robert Ryan

(If you have never had a pet, choose the animal you really wanted to have as a pet when you were a little kid.)

And there you have it!  Just add those all together to create the cast of your blockbuster western.  If you want to, you can make up a little story to go with it, but you don't have to -- you can just comment with the names of your stars and what their roles will be.

Here's mine:

Hero: Val Kilmer
Sidekick: Charles Bronson
Heroine: Scarlett Johannson
Gal Pal: Angie Dickinson
Comic Relief: Steve Martin
Villain: Tommy Lee Jones

My hero (Val Kilmer) and heroine (Scarlett Johansson) arrive in town at the same time, one on a horse and the other on the train.  He and a pal (Charles Bronson) are just drifting through, looking for work.  She's coming home, her best friend (Angie Dickinson) in tow, to take over running her father's mercantile.  He died last month, shot in the back and dumped in an alley, and the only person in town who will tell her anything about the night he died is the town drunk (Steve Martin), who talks only as long as you keep plying him with beer and peanuts.  And those peanuts had better be plenty salty.  The town sheriff has left for parts unknown, and the two drifting friends are only convinced to replace him when the heroine and her best friend ask them really, really nicely.  

Everyone is suspicious of the man (Tommy Lee Jones) who owns both saloons and the dry goods store, and who keeps trying to scare the heroine into selling him her store and leaving town too.  Of course, he turns out to be a not-so-retired outlaw bent on making the town into a new hideout for bad guys and stolen goods.  

The hero and the villain end up in a shoot-out that ranges all over town, then onto a train just leaving the station, and only ends when they both run out of bullets and the hero punches the villain so hard, he falls off the train and dies.  The hero climbs back down onto the train, and when the conductor asks to see his ticket, he says he won't be riding long enough to need one.  His best friend rides up alongside the train leading a spare horse, the hero jumps off the train onto his horse, and they both head back to town.  The End!

Now it's your turn!

Monday, July 24, 2023

It's Legends of Western Cinema Week!

Yee!  And also, haw!  It is Legends of Western Cinema Week, friends!  Time to celebrate all our favorite onscreen cowboys and cowgirls, wranglers and rustlers, peace officers and bandits.

I can't wait to see what all of you have come up with for this year's event.  To make sure no one misses any of the great posts you're doing, remember to place links to all of your contributions in this widget:

That includes posts with your tag answers!  As well as anything else you're doing, be it movie reviews or character sketches or lists of favorites, and so on.  Olivia and Heidi have that same widget on their blogs, and any entry to submit on any blog will show up on all three!  I'll have a couple of games for you this week, along with a brand-new Ten Favorites list.  And my giveaway started this morning already!

Now, here's the tag!  You'll note we say "a favorite" for all of these because we know how very hard it can be to choose one absolute favorite for most of these.  So you can just highlight one example that you really love, not fret over whether or not it is your favorite of all time.

The LOWCW 2023 Tag

  • Stetson -- a favorite hero moment (i.e. highlighting their character and/or making a pivotal decision, etc) 
  • Petticoat -- a favorite heroine moment (ditto)
  • Canteen -- a favorite scene with a leader/mentor 
  • Gloves -- a favorite sidekick/friend scene 
  • Canyon -- a favorite western landscape 
  • Pistol -- a favorite fight scene 
  • Saddle -- a favorite horse / animal in a western 
  • Sky -- a favorite ambitious / crazy plan in a western 
  • Rifle -- a favorite scene with an antagonist 
  • Chuckwagon -- a favorite meal scene 
  • Badge -- a favorite scene with peace officers / sheriff 
  • Lariat -- a favorite cattle drive /roundup

Saddle up!

Giveaway for Legends of Western Cinema Week 2023

Want to win some fun cowboy movie-related stuff?  This year, I am giving away SIX prizes:

Prize 1: A set of 4 classic western movies, Albuquerque (1948, starring Randolph Scott), Whispering Smith (1948, starring Alan Ladd -- read my review here), The Duel at Silver Creek (1952, starring Audie Murphy), and War Arrow (1953, starring Maureen O'Hara).  This DVD set is NEW and unopened!

Prize 2: A paperback copy of The Hollywood West: Lives of Film Legends Who Shaped It edited by Richard W. Etulain and Glenda Riley.  This book is NEW.

Prize 3: The complete TV series The Loner (1965-66), starring Lloyd Bridges -- read my overview of the series here.  This DVD set is USED but plays fine in my DVD player.  I cannot guarantee that it will play in yours.

Prize 4: A set of THREE bookmarks featuring silhouettes of cowboy actors John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Val Kilmer.  I made these myself from the pages of a Louis L'Amour book that fell apart, and covered them with contact paper so they will last quite a while.

Prize 5: A set of FOUR bookmarks featuring silhouettes of Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), Virgil Earp (Sam Elliott), Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), and Morgan Earp (Bill Paxton) from the movie Tombstone (1993).  Again, I made these myself and covered them with contact paper so they will last quite a while.

Prize 6: A rustic metal cowboy boot-shaped magnet.  I bought this in Cody, Wyoming, last month to be a prize for this giveaway.  It doesn't show up very well in the image above, so here is a closer look:

Enter this giveaway via this widget:

You'll notice that one way to get extra entries is by leaving a comment on this post giving me your prize preferences. You are welcome to tell me which prizes you DO want to win, as well as any you DO NOT want to win (for instance, if you already own one of the movies and don't need another copy). I can't guarantee that winners will receive their first choice of a prize! But I do try to match them whenever I can. If you don't tell me your prize preferences, and the widget chooses you as a winner, I will award you a random prize. 

 Another way to get extra entries is by participating in this blog party with a post of your own. That can be anything from filling out the official tag to writing a review, or whatever you dream up. My official kick-off post provides more information on ways to participate. 

And you can get one extra entry each day by reading and commenting on one of my western movie or TV show reviews!  You can find links to all of those on this page.  Please read and comment on a different post each day and remember to enter the giveaway with that option after you do.

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE. If the USPS ships to your country, you are eligible. However, you must be 18 or older in order to enter, or have a parent's permission to provide your mailing address. PLEASE make sure you sign into the widget with an email address you check REGULARLY. This giveaway runs through 11:59pm EST on Friday, July 28, 2023. I will choose six winners on Saturday, July 29, and announce their names/handles here on my blog. I will also use the email address provided to the widget to contact each winner and ask for their mailing address. Winners have one week to reply. If I do not receive a reply from a winner by Saturday, August 5, I will disqualify that winner and choose a new winner for that specific prize. 

This giveaway is not affiliated with Blogger, Google, the USPS, Rafflecopter, or anyone else. I purchased or made all prizes myself and will pay to ship them myself. All DVDs are REGION 1 discs and will not play in most DVD players on other continents. Please check the region specifications of your DVD player before you enter if you do not live in North America. 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

"Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" (2023) -- Initial Thoughts

Well, that was a fun ride!  Not a brilliant movie.  Not a mind-blowing adventure.  But a really, thoroughly enjoyable movie.  Which is precisely what I want from an Indiana Jones movie.  I hope to manage to see it in the theater at least once more this summer!

The plot revolves around an actual artifact, the Antikythera -- I have actually watched a whole documentary about it more than once because my son was fascinated by it when he was a bit younger.  So when I discovered that's what this one revolved around, I was like, ohhhhh, he's going to enjoy this movie one day.

Anyway, back during WWII, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his British friend Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) are trying to nab a different artifact from Nazi treasure hunter Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), and they discover he also has the Antikythera.  A thrilling trainboard chase sequence ensues.  I happen to be really fond of people running around on top of trains (blame my childhood spent watching westerns), so I really enjoyed that bit.  Also, the CGI they used to give Indy his 40-yr-old face was really, really good.  It did go a little uncanny-valley now and then, but not often.  Unfortunately, they didn't do as well on Mads Mikkelsen, but oh well.

The bulk of the story takes place twenty-five-ish years later, in 1969, when Indy is contacted by his friend Basil's daughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who wants to know if Indy has the Antikythera.  And it turns out Voller is now a NASA scientist, and he's got a bunch of henchmen who may or may not be working for the CIA, and they want the gizmo too.  So we have a lot more chase scenes.

I happen to like chase scenes, so I enjoyed those, too.

My favorite part of the movie was probably the deep-sea diving adventure that involved another old friend of Indy's, this one played by Antonio Banderas.  I have long dreamed of going deep-sea diving and exploring shipwrecks, and so I just was bouncing with glee all through that sequence.  Plus, Antonio Banderas!!!  

I also loved that the overall message of this movie went back to the roots of my favorite Indy movies: people are more important than stuff.  In the end, an object of historical significance, is just an object, and not worth trading a person's life for.  Loved that.

Also, the very end of the movie made me cry with joy, and I loved that too.  

I didn't realize that this is directed by James Mangold, but when I saw his name in the end credits, suddenly I noticed how similar this movie is to Logan (2017), and how I liked it for a lot of the same reasons.  You have an aging hero who is dismissed as an old geezer by the bad guys, but who proves to still be heroic.  Who stands up and says, "I may be old, but I will not sit idly by while you commit evil actions.  I will do what I can to stop you."  Man, I LOVE that kind of character.  Plus, you have a mentorship gone sour, and family relationships that have fallen apart but could be salvaged again.  And Boyd Holbrook plays a super annoying bad guy in both of them.  See?  So similar.

Anyway, yeah, I liked it.  

Is this movie family friendly?  It earns its PG-13 rating with jump scares, some icky stuff involving centipedes and eels and skeletons, some cussing, and lots of shooting and other violence (but it was non-gory).  No smutty scenes.

Friday, July 14, 2023

"Pride and Prejudice" (1940)

If you are the sort of person who falls into a swoon over any adaptation of a Jane Austen novel that does not have what you yourself deem to be "period correct" costumes, you might want to stop reading right here.  Because I really love this movie, and I promise I have heard all your moanings and whingings and protestings before, and I don't need to hear them again.  You shan't dissuade me from loving it.

Or, if you are the sort of person who has always wanted to see this adaptation, but you heard it was "awful" or "unwatchable" because the costumes are not "Regency Era-appropriate," read on!  Because there's a reason the filmmakers selected the costumes they did, and it had nothing to do with being stupid and ignorant, and everything to do with being canny and prudent.

In case there is anyone reading this who does NOT know the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, let me briefly explain it:

Elizabeth Bennet (Greer Garson) and her four sisters need husbands.  Why?  Because the property their father (Edmund Gwenn) inherited from his father is "entailed," which means it can by law only pass on to the next male heir.  And the Bennets have no sons.  The family can live comfortably, even well, as long as Mr. Bennet lives.  But the minute he dies, his cousin Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper) will inherit everything.  

Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland) therefore spends her every waking minute trying to find a way to provide for her daughters in their adult lives.  Her only real plan is a hope that at least one of them will manage to marry a rich gentleman, and then either the other daughters can also find husbands who will care for and support them, or else they can be provided for in some way by said rich gentleman and whichever daughter married him.

Naturally, when a rich bachelor named Mr. Bingley (Bruce Lester) moves into the neighborhood, bringing along his sister, Miss Bingley (Frieda Inescort) and his good friend, Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier), Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed.  And overflowing with schemes.  Surely Mr. Bingley will marry either her eldest daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) or the next in line, Elizabeth.  Mrs. Bennet does everything in her power to throw Jane and Mr. Bingley together, and her scheming works... for a while.

But, while Mr. Bingley is good-humored and affable, Mr. Darcy strikes people as dour and stuffy.  He doesn't like to dance with strangers.  He doesn't flatter people.  He doesn't smile very much.  Well, that last isn't actually true -- this Mr. Darcy does smile quite a lot after the first few times we meet him.  He's actually rather pleasant and charming... but he's also terribly proud.  He can't abide Mrs. Bennet or the two youngest Bennet girls, Kitty (Heather Angel) and Lydia (Ann Rutherford).  Because they offend him so much, he is convinced he and Mr. Bingley should really have nothing to do with any of the Bennet family.

But Mr. Darcy's path keeps crossing Elizabeth Bennet's.  He falls in love with her, even though she swears he is the last man she could ever be persuaded to marry.  When her sister Lydia falls into disgrace, he does everything in his power to set things right for her, just to help Elizabeth.  Gradually, he learns not to let his pride cloud his judgement, and she learns not to let herself be prejudiced for or against a person before she knows them reasonably well.

I very much enjoy Greer Garson's portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet as an intelligent, witty, good-humored young woman.  And I am particularly fond of Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy.  He's less socially awkward than we usually see Mr. Darcy portrayed, which emphasizes his insistence on propriety and taking pride in his station in life as being a choice, not simply a character trait.

One stand-out side character, for me, is Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Edna May Oliver).  She's just as acerbic and haughty as she ought to be, on the surface, but she has a humorous kindliness underneath that you get to glimpse at the very end, and I love that.

This particular film is actually an adaptation of a 1935 stage play by Helen Jerome.  Shocking as this may seem to us today, when Jane Austen can feel so ubiquitous in the literary and movie scene, this is actually the first movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice!  Not the first appearance of P&P on film -- someone filmed a stage play a couple of years earlier, but that was not really a movie production.

And now we come to the reasons why this adaptation is set in the Victorian Era instead of around 1813 in the Regency Era when the book was written.  They have to do with two important historical events: 1) the Great Depression, which was still besetting Americans with poverty and worry when this film was released, and 2) the 1939 runaway hit status of the movie Gone with the Wind.

Times were still hard in 1940.  And if moviegoers were going to part with a little of their too-scant money to go see a movie, they wanted it to be a movie that would transport them into a different world for a while.  They wanted escapist movies that would help them ignore their troubles for a little while.  Exotic locations, lavish costumes, opulent sets, romance between beautiful actresses and handsome actors -- those were the ingredients of a smash hit in that era.  The more of those ingredients you could add to your movie, the better your chances of having a smash hit.

The smashiest of smash hits in that era (and, indeed, if you adjust for inflation, it's still the highest-grossing movie of all time) was Gone with the Wind, which came out just one year earlier.  American moviegoers were entranced by the hoop-skirted gowns and elegant formal suits.  They found the wealth and opulence on display in the mansions onscreen to be mesmerizing.  And the enemies-to-lovers romance between the main characters captivated their imaginations.

And, the truth is, all of those costumes and sets cost the studios a lot of money.  So, when the studio greenlit the adaptation of another famous novel featuring sweeping enemies-to-lovers romance, this time one by British author Jane Austen, they figured why not make sure audiences who loved Gone with the Wind got some of the same ingredients that made that movie such a hit?  They set this movie version in the Victorian Era and gave all the women eye-catching hoop-skirts and extravagant hats.  That let the studios reuse some of the costumes from Gone with the Wind for extras in crowd scenes, and they even reused some set pieces from GWTW for an outdoor party scene in this film.

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough Technicolor film available when they began shooting this film, rumored to be because Gone with the Wind had used so much of it.  So, they shot it in black-and-white, and the audience was denied the full splendor of those marvelous costumes and sets.  Still, audiences responded favorably to the film, and it earned nearly $2 million at the box office.  Unfortunately, it failed to completely recoup its expenses, and any more thoughts of adapting Jane Austen's novels for the big screen were shelved.  It wouldn't be until the 1970s that anyone made another film version of one of her books, and it wouldn't be until the runaway success of the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice that Jane Austen's novels would become the cultural phenomenon in America that we are still enjoying today.

Is this movie family friendly?  ABSOLUTELY!  My kids have seen it quite a few times, and my 11-yr-old is particularly fond of it.

This review is my contribution to the 2023 Classic Literature on Film Blogathon hosted by Silver Screen Classics this weekend.  Check out that event for more cool literature-inspired movie fun!

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

When Everything Old is New Again: "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)

I love X-men: Days of Future Past (2014), and a huge part of why I love it is how it handles time travel. I’ve long liked the idea of time travel, especially how it can lead to awesome character development as people deal with the differences between what might have been and what now is, depending on how their actions change things. 

Days of Future Past begins in a dystopian near-future where mutants have been hunted almost to extinction. Only a few have survived, including Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, and Kitty Pryde. Kitty’s powers used to be walking through walls, but they’ve expanded to being able to send a person’s consciousness through the walls of time into their past body, which comes in handy for warning their past selves about future ambushes from the giant robots called Sentinels that have been wiping out the mutants. 

Professor X and Magneto decide the best plan to save what remains of mutantkind is to have Kitty send someone to the 1970s to keep the Sentinels from ever being created. Initially, Professor X wants to go himself, but Kitty says a person’s mind can only stretch back for a few weeks—any more and it would break. 

Logically, then, the only one who can get sent back as far as the 1970s would be someone whose mind and body can heal as fast as they’re broken, namely Wolverine. Which, from a filmmaking standpoint, is also logical, since Wolvie doesn’t really age, so having Hugh Jackman play him in the 1970s and the near future works without major makeup or digital effects to age or de-age him. A little grey hair at the temples for Near-Future Wolvie, and none for Past Wolvie, and we’re good to go. 

Once Wolverine’s consciousness goes back to the 1970s, the real fun begins. Because he didn’t get his adamantium skeleton and claws until the 1980s, he has just his bone claws, which surprises him and leads to one of the funniest moments ever to involve a metal detector. The movies have always depicted him wearing ’70s flavored clothes, especially those awful paisley shirts, so for once, he really fits in well. Also, this allows him to meet up with younger Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique, and thus bridge the past and future versions of these characters neatly, passing the torch much more effectively than in X-Men: First Class

But the fun 1970s shenanigans, the epic prison break scene involving Quicksilver, and the meeting of the minds between future and past Professor X aren’t why I love this movie, though they add to the wonderfulness. No, this is my favorite X-Men movie, not to mention my favorite use of time travel, because of how it ends. I’m going to spoil that here, so don’t read the next two paragraphs if you haven’t seen this, but want to, and don’t desire major spoilization. 

I love the ending because it effectively wipes out the biggest reason Wolverine has to be filled with heartache and remorse: the death of Jean Grey at the end of X3: X-Men’s Last Stand. Wolvie’s actions in the past create a new future, one much happier than the one he was living in at the beginning of the movie, and not just because the Sentinels are no longer an issue. 

At the end of this movie, Wolverine wakes up back in Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which we all know shouldn’t still be standing, much less in such lovely condition. He walks out into the hallways and sees characters who had either died or left the mutant family, and we begin to hope, just like you can see he does, that maybe others who died might also have been spared in this new timeline. And then, there she is —a woman with bright red hair, standing with her back to Wolverine and to us. Wolverine’s eyes widen with the realization that he has fixed so much more than he’d expected to as the woman turns around and reveals she is indeed Jean Grey. My heart nearly burst with joy for Wolverine the first time I saw it, because my heart has ached for him for so long, for the burden of grief he’s borne over having to save the world by killing the woman he loved… and now, that never actually happened. Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen! 

Yes indeed, I like the idea of time travel. I even like it when it means that character development from old stories gets negated by new ones. There’s always room for more in the future, after all.

(This post originally appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Femnista magazine.)